THE so-called ‘Ring of Steel’ comes down at the entrance to South Gippsland and Bass Coast at 11.59pm on Sunday, November 8 but already the welcome mat is out for locals coming ‘home’ to visit family, homeowners returning to their properties and holidaymakers.

And if not the ‘welcome mat’ literally, figuratively speaking, Alex Scott and Staff, local real estate agents in the West Gippsland, Bass Coast and South Gippsland area, delivered the message loud and clear today.

They had a sign erected between Bass and Anderson, just before the flyover to Phillip Island, and the turnoff to Wonthaggi saying: ‘Welcome Home We’ve Missed You!”

Chairman of Alex Scott and Staff, Cowes real estate agent Greg Price acknowledged that now was the time.

“There’s a lot of excitement around the community that people will be coming back to the Island,” Mr Price said today.

“I’ve seen the concerns some people have about opening up to Melbourne again, but the reality is that kids living in Melbourne haven’t been able to get home to see mum and dad.

“There are many hundreds of people with homes on the Island who live here most of the year; play golf or bowls, support the local footy club and really get involved in the local community.

“Many of them have probably felt uncertain about visiting and out of respect for the locals they stayed away before the barriers went up but many of these people are valued members of our community; they pay their rates and contribute but they haven’t been able to come.

“Retail business and accommodation operators have really been doing it hard and some of them are no longer with us but with numbers in Melbourne being driven down, now is the time to open up again and we want people coming back to know that they’re welcome.”

Mr Price said he knew of people who had stayed away from visiting older relatives on the Island and across the region, because they were concerned for their health and welfare but were now looking forward to their family reunions.

“We’ve missed out on the grand prix and a lot of other things so it will be great to start to get back to normal, or COVID-normal as we’re supposed to say.”

He said those people who lived in Melbourne and came to the Island to play cricket or go surfing, fishing and all the other great activities the Island was famous for, would be able to resume their favourite activity in the knowledge that the local community wanted them back again.